Savannah Nash just wanted to take her sweet-16 birthday present out for a spin.
“She was so excited about that new car,” her uncle, Tim Nash, said.
She got the PT Cruiser for her May 8 birthday. She ran out to get her driver’s license on May 9.
One week later, after school on Thursday, the Harrisonville High School freshman rolled out of the driveway of her family’s home south of Harrisonville. She had driven barely 100 yards on South Walker Road when, at 4:19 p.m., she tried to cross the southbound lanes of Missouri 7 to turn north.
Authorities said she pulled directly into the path of a southbound semi-tractor trailer that slammed into the driver’s side of her car. Savannah is believed to have been killed instantly.
She’d driven the car only two or three times before, her uncle said.
Savannah was struck at the same intersection where, in 2002, her father’s uncle, Carl Nash, 79, was killed when he pulled into traffic, stopped and was broadsided by a car.
The Missouri Highway Patrol said a lengthy text that had not been sent was found on Savannah’s phone.
“We do believe that texting was an issue,” Sgt. Bill Lowe said.
Savannah’s family has its doubts.
“She was such a rule-follower,” Tim Nash said Friday, speaking in the hallway of Dickey Funeral Home while his brother and sister-in-law arranged Savannah’s funeral.
Savannah was the daughter of Paul Nash, owner of Paul’s Walls, a construction business, and Vicki Coulter. Savannah’s stepmother was Paul’s wife, Stephanie Nash.
Tim Nash said that his sister-in-law told him that she and Savannah had been outside in the yard just moments before the accident and that she had seen her daughter texting then. He said the family suspects that Savannah may simply have put her phone aside with an unfinished text.
At Harrisonville High School, students mourned their classmate one week short of the end of the academic year. Some had painted “RIP Savannah” on the back windows of their cars. Students also set up a Facebook page, RIP Savannah Nash, that quickly filled with condolences.
About 7:15 a.m., before the start of school, friends gathered along with Savannah’s parents at the flagpole for prayers and words of comfort.
“Everyone was just so sad, so down,” said freshman Jakob Gowing, 14, who shared biology and Spanish classes with Savannah.
“When I went into my Spanish class, everyone was either crying or about to cry,” he said. “She had so many friends and did nothing but smile.”
“She was just such a happy girl,” Savannah’s grandfather, Tom Dabbs, said at the funeral home.
She frequently made the honor roll at school. She loved to compete in soccer, won awards as a member of Future Farmers of America and was deeply devoted to her church, Church on the Rock, and its youth group.
She was also a crack bow hunter.
“And she could handle a gun, too,” her uncle said.
Beside her parents, Savannah’s family includes Erica Nash, 4, Ethen Coulter, 11, and Kimber Nash, 18, who graduated this year from Clinton High School and is set to attend college.
A Wednesday funeral is planned following a visitation at the family’s church Tuesday.
“Right now,” Tim Nash said of his family, “their hearts are broken.”